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Carroll School of Management Graduate Programs

Masters in Business series featuring Richard Holbrook

Richard Holbrook with second year consultants

By Siobhan Skizim, MBA '14

As part of the kick-off of the BC MBA Consulting Project, the Second Year Consultants (or 2YCs) launched our Masters in Business series, meeting with Eastern Bank CEO, Richard Holbrook, in the bank’s headquarters in downtown Boston, to hear his Lessons in Leadership. After a thirty plus year career, Mr. Holbrook has gathered deep insight in the fields of banking, business and finance and our team was eager to hear his view on the path his career has taken, as well as how he would advise MBAs about to take the next step in our careers.

Mr. Holbrook shared six Lessons in Leadership with our group that he believes are the culmination of valuable lessons he has learned over his career, which include:

·         Pigs get slaughtered. People who try to get more out of a market get hurt. Diversification of risk is crucial. The biggest mistake of banks is trying to stretch their yield. When you try to push it too hard, that’s when you get hurt.

·         Almost everybody is the smartest person in the room at some point. As a manager, it is crucial to find that person at the right time. Develop these people and give them the opportunity to share their knowledge and insights. The best leaders are the ones who become the best listeners.

·         Get in early and stay late. There is nothing you can do better for your career than this. You are given the opportunity for great conversations with senior managers. It is crucial to transform this visibility into action with senior management.

·         Your goal is to strive to ask the best questions, not give the best answers. The best question to ask is “why” because it’s non judgmental and gives you the best chance to learn. Too often organizations get into habitual behavior and rarely challenge fundamental reasons for following these processes. Change only happens when someone is willing to ask why.

·         If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards. If you’re not making progress, you’re losing ground.

·         You need to be true to your values and you need to understand them to do this. Beliefs should be based on values. Values rarely change—they are grounded in fundamentals of who we are.

While Mr. Holbrook shared these diverse lessons with our team – there was one key theme that stood out through our entire conversation:  be open to change. While in hindsight his career seems like a carefully laid path, Mr. Holbrook shared with our team that “planning is imperative, but following the plan is not.” In order to be as successful as possible, we must be alert to the opportunities that come unexpectedly, but will provide an incredible learning experience.

As I prepare to launch my career post-MBA, I recognize that I must plan for the future – but be open to the twists and turns that my career may take, and embrace them with enthusiasm and excitement.


Read the first article in this series, Lessons In Lessons in Leadership: Reflections on Management Practice II and the BC MBA Experience.



Siobhan Skizim is a 2nd year MBA candidate focusing on Competitive Service Delivery and serves as the President of the Graduate Management Association (GMA). After a successful internship in corporate finance with Fidelity Investments last summer, Siobhan is excited to return to Fidelity as a part of their Financial Leadership Program after graduation.